Inside Politics

Mbeki back for make-or-break talks

CHENGETAI ZVAUYA

Former South African leader Thabo Mbeki will bring terms of reference for political dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC’s Nelson Chamisa when he returns to Zimbabwe by month-end, Business Times heard this week.

Mbeki was in the country last month where he met Mnangagwa, Chamisa and leaders of other fringe parties that also make up the Political Actors Dialogue. The former South African President was expected to come back after Christmas holiday to bring to the table the warring parties.

Chwani Mtetwa, first secretary for political affairs at the South African Embassy in Harare, told Business Times that Mbeki is coming back to the country this month, although the working schedule has not been released.

“We know that former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki is supposed to be coming back at the end of this month to resume the political dialogue between Zanu PF and MDC leaders and we will let you know once we have information on the matter as we are in the process of communicating with him,” Mtetwa said.

“We are hearing from the corridors that the South Africa government is behind the talks and we are also communicating with the South Africa government to know what is happening.”

Churches under the ambit of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) have been ratcheting up pressure for Chamisa and Mnangagwa to dialogue which is billed to halt the economic freefall amid fears of unrest over the deteriorating environment. ZCC general secretary Kenneth Mtata said churches last month made presentations to Mbeki and is hopeful to meet the former South African leader when he returns to Zimbabwe this month.

“The political dialogue is a process and is not a one day event and it shall continue and we hope also to be included in the dialogue and we are glad that the dialogue process is starting to take shape and ready to take off and all the stakeholders must be involved,” Mtata said. “The way forward in the country is dialogue to resolve the problems we are facing as a country. We need each other to move the country forward.”

Writing on microblogging site early this month, Mtata said the currently proffered solution models to Zimbabwean challenges were maintenance model (maintain status quo until 2023), revolution model (force a replacement of current government by new leadership) and consensus model (find mutually agreed transitional process through dialogue. He said the choice of any model must be based on whether it produces lasting and sustainable results and whether it is possible to achieve with least risks to life.

“So while at face value a revolution promises permanent solution, in reality it can give you what you didn’t bargain for. Consensus demand exchange of ideas, outcomes may not be perfect but have broad ownership,” Mtata said.

He warned: “A nation that does not satisfactorily act on the cries of the vulnerable creates inevitable conditions for a revolution. Once its fires have been lit, no amount of ammunition can stop it.”

Mnangagwa and Chamisa have been haggling on the modalities of the talks. Mnangagwa wants the talks to be conducted under Polad.

Chamisa’s MDC is opposed to the participation under Polad arguing the bulk of the parties that constitute the grouping have no political relevance as they have no any representative in Parliament. This has seen Chamisa snubbing Polad meetings demanding to attend any dialogue convened by an international statesman as an arbitrator. While the parties haggle over the modalities of dialogue, the economy has taken a battering with rising prices which have eroded the purchasing of the local currency pushing the majority to the brink.

Last month, a UN agency said Zimbabwe is facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade with half of the population (7.7m) food insecure. World Food Programme spokesperson Bettina Luescher said that almost US$300m was needed urgently to supply some 240,000 tonnes of aid to avert hunger caused by a climate disaster and economic implosion.

Mbeki was midwife to the inclusive government that ran from 2009 to 2013. This came after Mbeki secured the Global Political Agreement in which Zanu PF and the two MDC formations agreed to work together after the disputed 2008 elections.

Recently, South Africa minister for International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor said sustainable solutions to the country’s problems should emanate from Zimbabwe.

Pandor said Zimbabwe’s social, economic and political problems can be addressed by local people being helped by the international community, instead of having the Southern African Community (SADC) only focusing on targeted sanctions imposed by the West on some Zanu PF officials.

Speaking at a symposium in Pretoria focusing on problems bedevilling Zimbabwe, Pandor said solutions should come from Zimbabweans themselves.

“There are complex challenges in Zimbabwe to be resolved by people of Zimbabwe with nations of the SADC. Sustainable solutions to come from Zimbabwe … We know there are serious and seemingly intractable political factors that might need attention, in fact, that need attention if solutions are to be effective or implementable. The political formations in Zimbabwe remain at loggerheads and have apparent deep antipathy toward each other which makes joint decisionmaking and planning extremely difficult,” Pandor said.

Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Lawrence Mhandara said both political parties need a third party to mediate. “MDC are talking of the legitimacy of President Mnangagwa arguing that he did not win the elections in a legitimate way and Zanu PF are saying we won the elections and MDC should accept them as the legitimate leaders of the country. This is a sticking problem that must be resolved by the third party and Mbeki knows that he has a lot of work to do and he has experience to break the impasse. MDC accepted him to break the ice but they will have problems with him because he is Pan African and does not want western world interference,” Mhandara said.

Mhandara also said the situation has not yet reached a mutual hurting stalemate as it is not similar to the 2008 situation.

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